Nike schools commit to event
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis may have pulled off his greatest scheduling coup.
Hollis told ESPN.com on Thursday that he has secured commitments from 16 schools to participate in a two-tournament men's basketball event in honor of Nike co-founder Phil Knight's 80th birthday.
The two tournaments, each consisting of eight teams, would take place in Portland, Ore. during a four-day period in November 2017. Knight's 80th birthday is Feb. 24, 2018.
This event would have more collective star power than any of the previous tournaments played at Maui, New York, Orlando or the Bahamas. The 16 Nike-sponsored schools -- mostly elite programs -- include Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina.
Hollis said he has commitments from schools representing all of college basketball's power conferences. NCAA rules prohibit schools from the same conference playing in the same event, hence the two eight-team tournaments.
The other schools are Florida, Ohio State, Connecticut, Georgetown, Texas, Oklahoma, Stanford, Oregon, Xavier, Butler, Gonzaga and Portland.
"All of these great basketball programs have been supported by Phil Knight and Nike," Hollis said. "His support of the programs have created scholarships and resources for these departments to excel."
Hollis said the event isn't driven by Knight or Nike, but rather by the schools' athletic directors who want to express their thanks. He also acknowledged that there are a few potential factors that could derail the current list of teams in the next five years -- a change in sneaker sponsorship or conference affiliation, for example.
"You can only have one school per conference, and with the current climate you never know," Hollis said. "We have the commitments to move forward from the 16 schools. What we're doing is creating the greatest in-season basketball event of all-time."
Hollis said how to split the conference teams hasn't been determined yet. The format for the event would have each set of eight teams play games at the Rose Garden and Veterans Memorial Coliseum on a Thursday in late November. The two events would switch sites for Friday's semifinals and consolation bracket.
The events would take Saturday off for college football programming, then return Sunday, with the third-place game and championship at the Rose Garden and the consolation at Veterans.
The format would be similar to the one used by the Old Spice Classic, Anaheim Classic and Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic. Hollis said there is also discussion of having eight other teams that are Nike-sponsored to come to play games as well, but not against this field.
Hollis said he has contacted ESPN about televising the event. ESPN senior vice president Burke Magnus confirmed the discussion and said that ESPN is interested in televising it in 2017.
There are discussions to bring a professor from each of the 16 schools for a think-tank educational session for the event, Hollis said, and the coaches and athletic directors want a tie-in with the Jimmy V Fund for cancer research, as well.
Hollis said the reason this event has to be scheduled five years in advance is schools already are committed to pre-conference tournaments through 2016.
Hollis has made headlines for his creative scheduling and was at the forefront of the unique basketball game played between Michigan State and UNC on the active USS Carl Vinson on Nov. 11, 2011. He also quickly signed off on the Spartans playing UConn on Nov. 9 at Germany's Ramstein Air Base.